A/N. Today is Logan Henderson's 22nd birthday. So I wrote this shamelessly fluffy Cargan bromance story as a sort of celebration. It's set in "Little Hollow" world, so hopefully most of you know what's going on. If not, then I think it's pretty easy to tell anyway. Anyway, I hope you like it! I don't own anything.
Apartment 2J was quiet other than the faint sound on the TV, its volume on low. Voices could be heard coming from outside by the pool, but the windows were shut, keeping most of the noise from entering. Carlos stared blankly at the TV screen, without seeing the images that flashed in front of him. He had been watching something with Logan, but now Logan was fast asleep next to him and Carlos couldn't even remember what they had been watching.
They were alone. Mrs. Knight had taken Katie out for the day and had yet to get back. Julie had taken James out to visit Little Logan and Kendall was with Jo down by the pool, his cell phone charged and ready in case his friends needed him. Stephanie was away so Carlos hadn't even thought about her when the other boys' girlfriends had come by. He knew that neither of them had let willingly but James found it hard to refuse Little Logan a visit and Kendall had given in only after Jo promised that they wouldn't leave the Palm Woods. A small part of Logan was glad that they had left. He had Logan all to himself for the whole night.
Of course, the whole night had lasted all of forty-five minutes until Logan had fallen asleep. Carlos glanced at his best friend and sighed. His health had improved a lot in the months that had passed after his life saving kidney surgery. But it was still painfully obvious that he wasn't completely healthy. The cancer was still inside of him and eating away at him by degrees. He was still so thin that Carlos had taken to thinking of him as tiny. The pale gray color still lingered on his face. He still got sick a lot, especially when he ate. He still fell asleep throughout the day and then for the rest of the night before ten.
Right now, he looked almost peaceful, only a small line of pain across his forehead as he slept on. That was good. At least he hadn't needed to take any pain medications today. His head rested heavily on the other end of the couch so that Carlos had to lean forward so he could see him well enough. He frowned. Logan didn't have a pillow or a blanket.
Quickly, Carlos stood up and retrieved a fleece blanket and soft pillow from his own bedroom. He hurried so that Logan wouldn't be alone for long. He gently eased Logan's head up and slid the pillow underneath, noting with a twinge of sadness that Logan hadn't even stirred at the touch. He must be more tired than Carlos had originally thought. Holding the blanket out wide, Carlos spread it over Logan's frail frame and tucked it close over his shoulders and under his chin. "There," he whispered softly to himself as he retook his seat by Logan's feet.
As soon as he sat down, Carlos felt his phone vibrate and he pulled it out of his pocket to glance at the screen. A new message from Kendall. Before he could open it, his phone vibrated yet again, lighting up with a new message from James. Carlos laughed to himself and opened James' message first.
Little Logan, Julie and I want to know how Logan's doing.
Carlos smiled, glad that James was out tonight. He had been struggling so much lately, but going to visit the little boy they had met while Logan was in the hospital, always made him feel better. Julie was good for him too. He quickly sent the three a reassuring message that Logan was fine, simply sleeping. Then he opened Kendall's message.
Hey, buddy. Taking good care of my bro, right?
Carlos really did have the best friends in all the world. Every time Kendall referred to Logan as his brother, it made Carlos smile. It made him so happy to have a reminder that Logan now had an official family looking out for him. Though he and James had been jealous at first when the Knights adopted Logan, they had later agreed with each other that Logan couldn't have a better family.
He fell asleep a little while ago. Warm and comfortable.
He sent the message and then set his phone aside with a small sigh. Once upon a happier time, Carlos had been one of those people who constantly needed to be on the move. He always needed to be saying or doing something or going somewhere. He had to be busy. But now, things were different. Logan's illness had seemed to zap his strength as well as Logan's. Carlos now found it difficult to sleep well and he hated being out if Logan wasn't with him. He found an extraordinary amount of comfort in the safe confines of 2J when his friends were with him.
All Carlos wanted for the rest of his life was for Logan to get better. He was constantly terrified that something would happen and that Logan would get really sick again. He was afraid that Logan might die. Again. Carlos hadn't been able to handle the first time Logan had been taken from them so abruptly and even though he had miraculously come back, the cold hard facts were that Logan had died. He had stopped breathing by himself. His heart had stopped beating. No matter what the doctors had tried, it hadn't been good enough. Logan Mitchell had stopped living at only eighteen years old. Carlos had trouble remembering that he was now alive. All he could think of sometimes was that Logan had died.
Carlos didn't Logan to die. That was it. It was a childish way of putting his feelings into words but Carlos had always been like that. He had always taken complicated things and put them in the simplest, most honest terms there were. He didn't need any huge vocabulary words to express how much he wanted Logan to live. He just wanted him to live. That was all.
What would they do without him? Carlos couldn't imagine losing Logan and then having to move on. They had known each other since they were five years old. That was thirteen years of a four-way friendship so strong and powerful that it intimidated others to observe. The four of them were so impossibly different that a stranger might wonder how they were so close. To Carlos though, it was simple. They cared about each other and loved each other more than they cared about and loved themselves. That was all. That was all they needed. He also though that since they were so different, they might really just be one complete person. Either way, they worked together.
A flash from the TV caught Carlos' attention and he focused on the screen long enough to see a commercial for some sort of insurance company. He watched in fascination as a frustrated man opened unpaid bill after unpaid pill, crumpled up the paper and threw it over his shoulder. The camera then cut to a trashcan overflowing with crumpled up pieces of paper. All that paper.
Carlos' quick eyes spied Mrs. Knight's grocery list sitting on the coffee table in front of him. He reached for the pad of paper that it was on and carefully ripped that single piece off and laid it aside. Then he ripped another sheet off and began a series of familiar motions.
He folded the paper and folded it again. His fingers worked carefully, skillfully, folding, lifting, turning, flattening, flipping, and folding some more. Gradually, the piece of paper looked less and less like a simple piece of paper and began to take on a certain shape. Biting his lip in concentration, Carlos performed the last few more complicated steps and then looked at his handiwork.
It was obviously a crane. He had definitely improved from when he had first started out. They looked better and he could even do it faster now. Carlos nodded in satisfaction and set the paper crane on the coffee table next to Mrs. Knight's grocery list. "Five hundred and seven," he said quietly to himself He was over halfway there now.
It was March now, but way back in the beginning of January, on New Year's Day actually, Logan had been in the hospital after getting violently ill the night before. He had told his friends as they sat beside his bed, trying to find hope to cling onto, the story of Sadako and her thousand paper cranes. They had read a book that told the true story of a little Japanese girl who had been diagnosed with leukemia, just like Logan. Apparently, a Japanese legend said that if a person folded one thousand paper cranes,that person would be granted a wish by a crane. Carlos knew that it was just a legend but he was willing to do anything that might grant him his wish of Logan getting better.
Since then, Carlos had been folding cranes out of every little bit of paper he could find. He kept them all in a box that was shoved in the back of his closet. They were different sizes, colors, and even shapes, because some of them were crooked or slightly ripped. But Carlos loved them all equally because a tiny part of him, the little boy part of him, believed that they would really work their magic and make his wish come true. To him, they were all beautiful.
Carlos ripped another piece off and folded it into another crane. He folded another crane and another and still another. His fingers began to ache from all the careful folding, but Carlos didn't stop. A determination deep inside of him, drove him on. He was vaguely aware of just how absurd the growing pile of paper cranes on the coffee table might look to someone but that didn't matter.
"Five hundred and forty three. . ."
"Five hundred and sixty one. . ."
"Five hundred and seventy- ouch!" Carlos dropped the one hundred and seventy eighth crane on the floor and looked at his left hand. A paper cut ran along the entire length of his pointer finger. Blood ran down it and into the palm of his hand. "Shoot," he muttered, standing up and hurrying over to the sink.
He struggled to rip a paper towel off the rack with just one hand. Carlos winced as he held the cut finger under the faucet and let water mix with blood that dripped down the sink. HE wondered if it was possible to bleed to death from a paper cut and if so, how long would it take?
Carlos turned quickly, just in time to see Logan sitting up, the blanket falling from his shoulders. The look of confusion on his face when he saw the paper cranes sitting in front of him was almost comical. But Carlos was more concerned with the fact that Logan was over there and he was still by the sink. "Logie, stay there. I'll be right over."
Logan ignored him. "Are you okay?" he asked, standing up slowly so that he wouldn't get dizzy. "What are you doing?"
"Just, um. . ." Carlos stammered for a reply. "I have a paper cut." He finally decided that Logan was going to come over to him no matter what he said. "I'm okay though."
"Let me see." Logan reached him and turned on the overhead light so he could see better. "Carlos," he murmured, taking Carlos' wrist gently in his hand and lifting it closely to his face for inspection. "Come into the bathroom with me."
Carlos followed without a word, taking small steps so that he wouldn't overtake Logan's slow and weary pace. "It's not that bad," he said, hating the way his voice suddenly decided to shake. "I'm okay, Logan. Really."
"I know. But. . ." Logan shrugged. "Just sit." he gestured to the edge of the tub where Carlos say obediently. Then he turned and started to pick through the medicine cabinet. "How long was I asleep?"
"Uh, I don't know." Carlos said honestly. Time was funny lately. Whenever it felt like it was crawling by, hours instead of minutes had passed. And whenever it felt like it was flying by far too quickly, it was actually creeping by at the pace of a tortoise. He tried to avoid even the thought of time because it scared him so much. Time was their enemy because no on knew how much time Logan had left with them. It could be ninety years or it could be ninety days. The uncertainty of everything made Carlos very afraid. He lowered his gaze, trying to ignore the way Logan had to remove several orange bottles of medication before he could find what he was looking for.
Logan sat down next to Carlos and took his hand. "This isn't your first paper cut," he quickly observed when he saw several other tiny scars on Carlos' other fingers. "Does your other hand look like this?"
Logan looked sad and that made Carlos sad. It made him sad because Logan was upset over such a small thing as a few paper cuts while he was dying because of the stupid cancer that refused to give him a break. As Logan carefully cleaned the cut and then unwrapped a Band-Aid to put over it, Carlos was suddenly struck by how small his hands were. It was like they had shrunk and were bony and light. Carlos swallowed hard and looked away.
"What's wrong?" Logan asked softly as he threw the trash away and looked up to see Carlos' tears.
"You." the one word escaped Carlos' mouth in a choked whisper. "You're so sick, Logan."
"I've been getting better," Logan tried to insist. "You know that, Carlos. I. . . I've been feeling a lot better."
Carlos wanted to believe him. But it was hard to look and see the dark circles and the pale face and be convinced. It was hard to look past those things. It was so hard to see what he so badly wanted to see. "You still look really tired," he said, feeling totally helpless. "It's. . . it's scary."
He expected Logan to say something to reassure him again, but instead he yawned. "I am tired," he admitted reluctantly. "But other than that, I've felt pretty good. A little sick, but Carlos, I've been feeling better than I have in months. I promise."
Carlos glanced down at the carefully cared for cut and smiled. "I know," he told Logan. "I just want you all better."
Carlos' way of simplifying things had a habit of making people either cry or laugh. In this case, Logan's eyes filled and he ducked his head away. "Me too," he said with a small sigh that was interrupted by another yawn.
Carlos looked up quickly. "You should go to bed. Or at least lay down again."
Logan nodded and let Carlos help him stand. He leaned slightly on his friend, grateful for the support. Once they had reached the couch, he sank back down and nodded at the paper cranes crowding the table. "How many have you made now?" he asked.
"Um," Carlos bent to retrieve the dropped crane and set it carefully with the others. "Five hundred and seventy eight. I folded a lot tonight."
"I can see that," Logan said with a nod. "I think they're working, Carlos."
"Working?" Carlos glanced over at Logan who was laying down again. He pulled the blanket back up over at his friend and let himself relax a little.
Logan smiled gratefully as he pulled the blanket close. "Yeah. I think they're helping me get stronger. Just like you and Kendall and James and everyone else. They give me something else to fight for, you know?"
If that was really true, then Carlos would fold over a million paper cranes to give Logan something to fight for. "I'm glad." He pulled his legs up on the couch and rested his chin on his knees. "Logie?"
"Hm?" Logan had his face buried into the blanket, his voice already drowsy.
There were so many questions Carlos wanted to ask, so many things he wanted to say. He wanted to ask Logan if he thought he was going to get worse and die again. He wanted to plead with Logan to get even better and then keep living. But he didn't ask or say any of that. Instead, he lay down next to Logan, his small frame sitting on the couch easily with Logan's tiny, wasted away body. The he wrapped both arms around his friend and pulled him as close as possible so that it wouldn't feel like he was losing him anymore. "Thanks for taking care of my hand." he mumbled.
Logan's fingers ran lightly over the Band-Aid on Carlos' hand and then the other small cuts there. He lifted his face from the blanket for a minute to stare with through sleep filled eyes at the paper cranes on the table. Where some people looked and saw folded pieces of paper, he looked and saw symbols of hope and love. He saw a promise. "Thanks for taking care of me, Carlos. I wish there was someway I could pay you back."
Carlos was silent and soon, as he listened, Logan's breathing went from heavy and labored to smooth and easy as he fell asleep. He held back another sigh and simply listened to the sound of Logan breathing. It was a wonderful sound. It meant that Logan was alive and still with them. Moving his hand slightly, Carlos rested it lightly on Logan's chest. Logan felt especially breakable there, almost though if Carlos were to put any more pressure on him, he would just cave in and disappear. But Carlos didn't focus on that. Instead he focused on the surprisingly strong and steady heartbeat that he felt beneath his palm. It was the same heart that had stopped beating altogether months ago and yet here it was, beating as though there was nothing wrong.
"Just don't leave us, Logie." he finally whispered after time had passed. "That's all we want in return." Then he let himself drift off into a restless sleep, ready to wake at a hint of distress from Logan. But at the same time, he was filled with a sense of peace. He had no idea how long this peace would last, since it came and went whenever it wanted to. But he had learned to be grateful for it and appreciate it when it was there with them. It let him believe that, maybe, one day, they would all be okay and whole again.
A/N. Happy Birthday, Logan! Thanks to everyone who read this, I hope you liked it. I'll try to finish "Those Nights" tomorrow and then get back on track with "TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY". Have an awesome rest of the week, everyone!